|La Caridad Restaurant, Broadway and 78th, ca. 1970.|
One such neighborhood eatery was La Caridad (technically called "La Unica Caridad"). Caridad is a theological Virgin name that translates as Charity, representing Our Lady of Charity, a popular saint's name in Cuba. Located on the southwest corner of Broadway and 78th Street, it was a neighborhood fixture for 52 years. Opened in 1968, La Caridad offered Chino Latino food, which blends Mexican and Chinese food. Chinese-Spanish restaurants are an Upper West Side staple, though there are fewer of them now than there used to be. Here, we do a then-and-now comparison of La Caridad Restaurant on the Upper West Side.
|La Caridad (then called "La Caridad 78 restaurant") in October 2007 (Michael Minn).|
|The La Caridad takeout menu in June 2009. Note that this is the Cuban menu, the Chinese food menu was on the other side.|
|La Caridad changed over the years from the 1950s counter-seating diner setting shown in the top photograph to a more typical diner setting, with tables where you could eat and get in and out of quickly.|
|La Caridad, May 2009 (Google Street View).|
La Caridad's founder, Raphael Lee, was a Chinese immigrant who had lived in Havana. He developed a love for both Chinese food and local Cuban delicacies from that city’s Chinatown. While the food is called "fusion," however, they never really and truly melded. You didn't get fried plantains and chicken with cashews on the same plate.
Now, we're not talking about the Four Seasons here. These types of neighborhood joints are barely a step above the greasy pizza places that all began with the Original Ray's (I love Ray's pizza, btw). To be blunt, the Chinese food was standard Manhattan Chinese American (want some General Tso's Pork Chops?), while the Cuban dishes were on a separate part of the menu. If you were looking for something exotic and an "experience," you could turn the menu to the Cuban pages and order some sancocho soup. Your companion, meanwhile, could stay in the Chinese menu section and choose the nice and safe Crispy Spring Roll followed by Sesame Chicken. But it was still a melange of styles.
|La Caridad, June 2019 (Google Street View).|
|La Caridad ca. 2020 (Robert K. Chin).|